Tymaz Bagbani, in every way, had the world ahead of him. Blessed with the natural talent and work ethic to pursue his soccer dreams to the highest levels of the sport, he was poised to have a life and career that few can only imagine.
But life had other plans, and they would leave Tymaz left to not only pick up the pieces and chart a new path for himself, but indeed fight just to see another day.
“I started playing soccer at the age of five, it’s all I ever wanted,” Tymaz told Majically News.
It didn’t take long for his family and coaches to see his promise, and few years in, they knew if he pursued soccer at the rate he was developing, the sky was the limit.
Things were going smoothly until the age of 11 when he hit his first true hurtle: a diagnosis of leukemia.
“My first diagnosis required me to spend essentially six straight months in the hospital,” he said. “It was six rounds of chemo. I got a treatment, stayed for a month, then got to go home for a week, and then I had to go right back to stay another month.”
Even in the hospital, Tymaz showed no signs of wavering from his dream.
“Soccer was my will to live. In the hospital, all I could think about was getting back on the pitch. Even in the hospital room I would set up cones just so I could practice fundamentals.”
After his cancer went into remission, Tymaz got right back into shape. Things went smoothly for about 2.5 years – then he relapsed.
This time, the treatment plan required a bone marrow transplant, which included finding a matching donor. According to statistics, only 1 in 60,000 people are a match for a bone marrow transplant, so an international search was needed, followed by another six-month stay at the hospital that was even more grueling than the last one.
“Following the transplant, they had use a special kind of chemotherapy, a really ferocious kind,” said Tymaz. “I had to stay in a room the size of a closet, and my mom had to wear a hazmat suit just to be in the same room with me.”
Remarkably, the treatment appeared successful, and at 15 he was recruited by the Malaga Football Club in Spain. “It was an unbelievable opportunity,” he says.
“I got to move to Spain, live with a Spanish family, and train with professionals at the highest level of the sport. I had made it. Against all odds, I was there, just to have it all taken away from me.”
After only a month of training, it was clear something was wrong.
“Almost as soon as I started trials, I started to get sick again,” he says. “I was running up hills, I was putting in the work I needed to improve, but I wasn’t getting stronger. I was getting weaker. Pretty soon, I started noticing bruises all over my body. At first, I thought maybe I was so active I was just getting them from training, but there were too many. I knew it wasn’t normal.”
Shortly after, he was back on a plane to Toronto, where he immediately checked into a hospital, his soccer dreams over.
The prognosis from his doctors was grim.
“They gave me six months to live. The only course of action at that point was to do another bone marrow transplant, this time with an unrelated donor, and the doctors didn’t really think it was worth the pain,” said Tymaz.
“They told my mom to spend time with your son. Make the best of the time he has left,” he continued.
Even at this stage, Tymaz and his family refused to give up. After countless hours of discussions and lobbying to the medical board, they were finally given their wish, even if everyone knew it was a long shot at best, and futile at worst.
“When you get a bone marrow transplant from someone who’s not a perfect match, the body starts to fight itself,” Tymaz said. “From my chest down, I was covered in lesions. My skin essentially peeled away. I couldn’t even eat without pain.”
Even more concerning, essentially most of Tymaz’s joints seemed to fuse together, especially his legs, which were stuck in a 90-degree position.
“There was no range of motion. They told me I would never walk again,” he said.
Incredibly, it was in this state, now confined to a wheelchair, where something within Tymaz changed. Instead of languishing over the life that he had lost, he started to pivot all those passions toward something else entirely: music.
“Soccer was my life, but I always enjoyed hip hop and rap,” said Tymaz. “But I really started to pay attention to rap battles. Something about the wordplay really inspired me, the expression, the raw competitiveness of it. When I saw rap battles, to me I saw something where I could still compete. It was an escape, where even if I was in a wheelchair or even a hospital bed, I could still be on a level playing field with everyone else.”
Toronto has a vibrant music scene, and as soon as he was able, Tymaz wheelchaired himself to the rap battle competition to take his shot at the mic.
Everything he had worked for, everything that drove him to that moment, came pouring out of him across the beat.
“From my very first battle, I knew what I wanted to be,” he said. “For those going through something, no matter what it is, I wanted to be their voice.”
His competition didn’t stand a chance. When his time on the mic was up, he was in the ring a winner, just like he imagined.
Although he started a new journey, soccer never fully left his mind. Today, Tymaz coaches soccer and uses his deep knowledge of the sport to train the next generation of players to chase their dreams. And while his days of training professionally are past, he amazingly has left his wheelchair behind. Not only can he walk, but he can run.
“If you saw me on the street, you wouldn’t think anything was wrong,” he said.
His number one passion, however, continues to be music. His first album, titled “Chosen,” will be released later this year.
“It’s the perfect title because it’s exactly what I feel,” he said. “Tymaz actually means ‘unique warrior.’ It’s a part of who I am. I was chosen for this. I want to be an icon, a symbol of perseverance. I want to show people what it was like to never give up, to never lose hope. This is what I can give the world.”
If that is his goal, then he has already won. And with his cancer in remission, whatever the next chapter of his life brings, Tymaz’s ongoing story provides us all with the inspiration to move forward and never, ever lose hope.